Bavarian elections rock German politics

The CSU and SPD have suffered major losses in Bavaria's state elections. The CSU won just 37.2 percent of the vote - losing more than ten percentage points. The SPD suffered similar losses, coming in fifth with just 9.7 percent. What are the lessons of these elections for the conservatives and Social Democrats?

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Everyone is bound to Merkel

Germany's grand coalition wouldn't hold together without Chancellor Merkel, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung is convinced:

“CDU and CSU politicians playing with the idea of dethroning Merkel must realise that the Social Democrats wouldn't accept her replacement. ... Merkel's leadership of the government is the precondition for the SPD's participation in the coalition. If she were forced to step down early this would give the Social Democrats the option of leaving this unpopular coalition and 'regenerating' in the opposition, as the saying goes. ... The Union parties would certainly not benefit from undercutting the chancellor in that way. On the contrary, if it came to early elections the anti-Merkel strategists would no doubt be punished by voters for their unorthodox behaviour.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

The chancellor has the last laugh

Merkel is anything but weakened by the result of the Bavarian election, Contrepoints argues:

“The outcome highlights in particular the failed strategy of part of the right aimed at winning over voters whose sympathies supposedly lie with the populists. This strategy was punished by voters who've had enough of this political game, and refuted by the liberals, who have been able to present a constructive programme and discourse rather than focussing purely on demagogy and a change of regime. But the result will above all strengthen Angela Merkel, who will be able to pin the blame for the debacle on her cumbersome Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

SPD in free fall

The Social Democrats have more to lose than the CDU and CSU in this game, the Wiener Zeitung explains:

“It's a tragic-comic aspect of the Bavarian state elections that their results let the CSU off with a crushing defeat because they still leave all options open for the power-pampered Munich state party. But the SPD is confronted with the question of whether it can survive - right across Germany, and particularly in Berlin. ... The Union parties and the SPD will no longer be able to govern with a steady hand. There is too much insecurity among all the parties for that, and the voters' desire to try out something new is too great. But while the Union parties still have reserves, for the SPD everything is at stake. Germany needs a political option beyond the grand coalition more than ever now. For the SPD, this is a matter of survival.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Country facing unsettled times

Die Welt sees the election results as a vote against the grand coalition in Berlin:

“Things cannot go on like this. It will probably take another election debacle in Hesse for the CDU's 'chancellor voting association' to seriously pose the question of whether it wants to follow in the depressing footsteps of the SPD. ... In its own stubborn, often charming, and almost always successful way the CSU had always been an anchor of stability in Germany. But that's over now. Germany is becoming even more restless. This doesn't bode well for Europe either. ... If the economy also takes a turn for the worse things could get really unpleasant.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Next elections could decide Merkel's fate

Rzeczpospolita takes a similar view of the situation:

“The stability of the coalition government in Berlin is not only threatened by the events in Bavaria. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel has many critics within her own party. The CDU/CSU had its worst results ever in the parliamentary elections at the end of last year (32.9 percent). Two weeks after Bavaria the CDU could see its results plunge by up to ten percentage points compared to four years ago in the Hesse state elections. ... If that happens the voices of those who want Merkel to go could gain force at the CDU headquarters in Berlin. And then at the CDU conference in Hamburg in December Merkel may not receive the support she needs to continue leading the party, and by extension the government, effectively.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Voters punished Söder's shift to the right

Immigration policy played a key role in the elections, El Periódico de Catalunya concludes:

“How to explain this turnaround in a state that has the highest salaries and at 2.8 percent the lowest unemployment rate in Germany? There are two reasons. First, the voters punished the grand coalition for its policies and its internal feuding and this could also be a response to Merkel's open-border policy for refugees of three years ago. Second, state premier Markus Söder's shift to the right on migration policy and security has had a double impact: it has legitimised the far right's discourse and at the same time it has prompted moderate CSU voters to flee to the Greens.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

CSU losing influence through internal migration

The CSU has had a hard time keeping up with the changes in Bavaria, Mladá fronta dnes comments:

“While trying to win back voters who had shifted allegiance to the anti-migration party AfD, the CSU lost an equally large share of the vote to the pro-migration Green Party. In addition, new voters for whom the Bavarian tradition embodied by the CSU means little or nothing went to the polls. Bavaria's population has grown. Not so much because of new arrivals from Syria or Iraq, but through immigration from other parts of Germany - above all the former GDR. They made their mark in the election. Bavarian society has changed. But not the CSU.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A glimmer of hope for Europe

The citizens have more faith in the European Union than many politicians think, Andrea Bonanni comments jubilantly in La Repubblica, taking stock of the Greens' election performance:

“After their defeat [in the general elections] a year ago the Social Democrats of the SPD put Europe at the centre of their programme. But unfortunately the big policy statements in the coalition agreement with Merkel were not followed up with facts. Regarding Europe the new government has turned out to be even more cautious, reserved and lacking in vision than the previous one. This is why the voters decided to give the Greens a chance. The latter are truly committed Europeans and capable of providing an alternative vision of society. And the Greens have never deviated from their principle of defending the human rights of refugees in Germany and Europe.”